After an inspiring visit with our friends Bob and Barbara in Queretaro, Mexico, Alain and I are back in Parsons and back to work. LaFontaine Bakery delivered ciabatta and baguettes on Tuesday; and sourdough white, muesli bread, sourdough multigrain, whole wheat sunflower and ciabatta on Friday.
In Mexico we didn’t do much shopping. I bought a couple of things for the kitchen–some Mexican oregano and some piloncillo–the rich dark brown sugar sold in hard cones that you grate before using. I haven’t decided what to do with the piloncillo yet. Alain bought a nice big sombrero for only $3.50 to wear while gardening or playing his accordion, I bought a pair of leather sandals for $17.00. (According to the calendar, spring is here, notwithstanding the difficulty we had driving home through the snow last night after an incredible show at the Purple Fiddle. It was the second of five scheduled benefit performances and our first exposure to a vivacious and quirky performer named Stephanie Nilles from New Orleans. We had a lot of fun!)
A week of practicing my espanol and eating Bob’s good cooking got me in the mood for more Mexican food when we got home. I had some dried chili peppers in the pantry and it had been a while since I made chili sauce. This is something I first learned about on a car ride from West Virginia to Washington D.C with a West Virginian living in New Mexico. My passenger was really into chili sauce! By the end of the trip I knew quite a bit about it, and couldn’t wait to make some. (In my family we don’t like to buy it if we can make it. And yes– this can definitely be carried too far, but this sauce is easy!)
There are many kinds of dried chili peppers, and they vary in taste and heat. You’ll have to experiment to find the ones you like. I’ve used poblano and guajillo. One thing you may want to look for is smoked dried chilies, which are used to make chipotle sauce. I don’t have any of those but would like to find some. Lots of chilis are not hot, so you don’t have to like spicy foods to make chili sauce. The finished sauce can be used for salsa on chips, eggs, or meatloaf, for enchiladas or in lots of other mexican foods like tacos, fajitas, etc. And of course, in “chili.”
Many recipes advise toasting the chilis first on a dry skillet.
This may loosen the flesh because they puff up a bit when they get hot. It may also add flavor and it doesn’t take long, so I usually do it. Cut chilis in a few pieces and put in the blender with enough water or stock to cover. Let them soak till soft, which only takes an hour at most.
Liquify the contents and pass thorough a sieve to remove larger pieces of the skin and seeds. In the meantime, saute some chopped hot or sweet fresh pepper, onions and garlic–and why not a few ramps if you have them.
When the onions are cooked to your liking (I like some caramelization), put them in the blender. Keep the saute pan handy. Add the strained chilis back in the blender as well. Liquify all together and pour back into the saute pan. Simmer to thicken. Add some salt and oregano and maybe some cumin. The sauce keeps in the fridge for a couple of weeks.
Sometime you may want to leave it chunky. We used ours for a dinner of juevos rancheros with Jane Birdsong before the concert at the Purple Fiddle. Jane brought her homemade cornbread so we didn’t serve corn tortillas this time. For a good plate of juevos rancheros you’ll need some beans and rice and a little salad preferably with avocado. Usually the eggs are sunny side up or easy over. Use the chili sauce on the eggs, and maybe on the beans and rice as well. Buen provecho!